Sri Lanka’s 32-year-old javelin thrower Dinesh Priyantha Herath came up with his best throw of 67.79m to set a new world record in the men’s F46 category to clinch the country’s maiden gold in Paralympics at the Olympics Stadium in Tokyo yesterday, amidst a searing temperature of 33 degrees Celsius with full sunshine.
“I was ready for this challenge and was training under the sun for months now. The climate here in Tokyo and Sri Lanka is pretty much the same and I was clearly the zone from the start. I just enjoyed the weather out here today as it was like I was training in my backyards,” said a jubilant Herath, who did not let go of the Lankan flag for even a second and was seen carrying it around all through to the change room.
Herath stole the show from firm favourite India’s India’s Devendra Jhajharia, who settled for the silver with his best throw of 64.35. Jhajharia’s compatriot Sundar Singh Gurjar won the bronze medal in the same event with his best throw of 64.01.
Herath, who severally injured his left arm during a military action against the LTTE took to Para sport in 2014. But the more time he spent doing sport, the more difficult it became for his family; financially, it was not sustainable and he was relying on the pension from the army.
“Yes, my wife was very upset with me doing the sport. However, now she supports me. I have three kids and I can’t wait to go and see them. They will be thrilled to see me back with a Gold,” said Herath, whose deep scars from three bullet wounds are evident on his left arm.
“It took me four years the piece my hand together. Those were the most testing times of my life. However, javelin has given me everything, it has helped me get my life back together and this gold is the result of all the hard work that I have put in,” said Herath.
Back at the 2019 World Championships in Dubai, Herath settled for a sliver behind Jhajharia.The duo share a friendly rivalry and though the competition is fierce while on the field of play, off it the bond goes beyond leaps and bounds.
“You know we both started together and have great respect for each other. It’s like a journey together and it is great to see the sport grow in Asia. If we can contribute in the development of the sport, then nothing will be like it. Today I have put Sri Lanka on the map.”
“You will be surprised to know there are so many kids now following the sport of javelin,” he continued. “It has simply picked up. There is a belief now that we can compete with the Europeans. You will see. Asia will emerge as a superpower in javelin in the coming years.”
Sri Lanka’s team leader Deepal Lekam Ralalage could not hide his tears and choked with emotion, saying: “You don’t how much this medal means to me as a nation. We have waited for this day for years. That’s why these tears are not stopping. This gold medal from Herath will carve a new path for the sport in our country. The Government was already doing a lot and hopefully if we can clinch a few more medals from here, then there will be nothing like it.”
General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army extended warm wishes and congratulations to Sergeant Dinesh Priyantha Herath. He is from the Gajaba Regiment which represents President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary Defence, General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne and Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army General Shavendra Silva.
Prior to his departure to Tokyo, Sergeant Dinesh Priyantha Herath during his meeting with the Army Chief assured that he would definitely bring glory and admiration to the Army and the country. Sergeant Dinesh Priyantha Herath sustained injuries in enemy fire on 16 December 2008 when he was fighting against LTTE terrorists in Kilinochchi area. Enlisted to the Army on 18 March 2004 as a recruit he completed basic training at Gajaba Regiment at Saliyapura. After his injuries, he actively took part in Army-organized Para Athletic training events at the GR Regimental HQ. In 2012, he won Gold Medal in Javelin Throw (52 m) in Army Para Athletic Meet, Gold Medal in Malaysia’s Para Athletic Meet (52.95 m) in 2012, Bronze Medal in Paralympics 2016 in Rio (58.23m), Silver Medal in Germany’s Para Athletic (Qualifying) Meet (53.09m) in 2017, Silver Medal in World Para Athletic Meet-2017 in London recording 59.90 m, Gold Medal in Asian Para Games in 2018 with a new record of 61.84 m and Silver Medal in World Para Athletics Championship in 2019 with 60.59m in the Javelin Throw event.
(Paralympics.org, SL Army)
President, PM, Namal congratulate Dinesh
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa were the first to extend warm wishes and congratulations to Sergeant Dinesh Priyantha Herath who won the first Gold medal for the country at a Paralympics event.
The President while congratulating Herath on his achievement said that his service in fighting for Sri Lanka as a soldier and putting the country on the international map is remarkable.
“Congratulations Dinesh Priyantha Herath for bringing glory to our mother land by winning the first ever #ParalympicsTokyo2020 gold medal in the history of #SriLanka . Your service in fighting for Sri Lanka as a soldier & putting us in the international sports map is remarkable,” the President tweeted.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa also congratulated Herath for making history by winning the first-ever Gold Medal in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The Prime Minister in a congratulatory message said that Herath showed his unwavering dedication and committed to save country from the scourge of terrorism.
“He brought bronze medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games and your achievement will give an impetus to fellow sportsmen representing the country too,” the Prime Minister said.
Dinesh Priyantha, who won a gold medal establishing a new world record in the javelin throw at the Paralympics, has given the perfect answer to the country’s other athletes, disclosed Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, while extending his best wishes to the athlete and then speaking to Daily News yesterday.
The Minister said it was a matter of pride for the country as another bronze medal was won by Samitha Dulan Kodithuwakku to give Sri Lanka the second medal of the day.
The Minister said that Sri Lanka Paralympic Federation’s proper alignment of its athletes for such achievements is a good example for Sri Lankan sports associations and federations. The Minister of Sports stated that he would like to extend his congratulations to the Sri Lanka Paralympic Federation as they are a very systematic and transparent group.
The Sports Minister who was happy to witness the winning moments spoke to Dinesh Priyantha at the Tokyo Paralympic Games and conveyed his heartfelt wishes to him and his coach.
“We witnessed some great athleticism by our Paralympians. When others were grumbling citing various reasons for their downfall, these athletes have found answers for them. I as the Sports Minister and we as a nation are indeed proud of their achievements.”
“Other associations in the country should take the Paralympians as an example how to function as a governing body. They run professionally and very methodically compared to others. They also work according to a proper structure, too, which has earned them immense success. Both Dinesh Priyantha Herath and Samitha Dulan Kodithuwakku have added a golden chapter to the Paralympic annals.” (AN)
Sri Lankan Gold Medallist in Tokyo Paralympics promoted
Sergeant Dinesh Priyantha Herath who made history by winning Gold in Paralympics 2020 in Tokyo was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer 1 by Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva with approval of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Secretary Ministry of Defence General Kamal Gunaratne (Retd)